Bed Bugs Invade Potter County

Gas drillers may be to blame for parasitic infestation

Cimex lectularius aka the Bed Bug

We’ve all heard the bedtime rhyme, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” While the nursery rhyme-like goodnight blessing may conjure up images of cute and cuddly Hollywood creatures, there is nothing cute or cuddly about bed bugs.

Bed Bugs (commonly Cimex Lectularius) are parasites which feed on birds, bats, animals and humans. In order to survive, they must have blood. They breed rapidly, and are ever-increasingly hard to get rid of. While there have been no cases of bed bugs spreading disease, their bites can cause rashes, blotches, sores and itchy skin. They are also often cited as a cause of much stress, anxiety and even mental destabilization. Likely, the result of sleepness nights for those who cannot stand the thought of sleeping while the little critters crawl about them, biting… feeding.

Up until recently, bed bugs in the United States had been all but eradicated, with very few infestations. The bugs had been nearly wiped out before the beginning of WWII. That has changed in recent years, however. Experts cite increased imports from Asia, an increase in travel, and resistance to common insecticides as possible causes of the recent and rapid growth of bed bug populations.

Several bed bug infestations in Potter County have recently been confirmed by exterminators. Representatives from Terminix told CoudyNews they have seen a rapid growth of the parasite in Potter County, saying an influx of migrating gas workers is likely to blame. The drillers move often, carrying the bugs with them from hotel to hotel, or apartment to apartment.

Experts are calling the rapid growth of bed bugs a pandemic, but detailed data on the parasitic populations is hard to come by. A representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Health said data is not kept on bed bugs since they are not currently known to transmit disease.

Bed bugs are said to be easy travelers, hitching rides on clothing, backpacks, suitcases and other belongings. Once introduced into an area, the potential to rapidly spread becomes obvious. Because bed bug infestations are practically unheard of in the area, landlords do not typically test for the bugs, and new tenants can quickly become infested, spreading the bugs to family and friends before realizing they exist.

Experts recommend those with a bed bug infestation continue to sleep in the affected room until an exterminator treats the home. Bed bugs seem to marry themselves to a host, and will follow that host if possible. Moving to another room in the home could actually increase the problem, with the bugs spreading out in search of the host, or other means to feed.

Not too many people like the idea of continuing to sleep in an affected area. Experts suggest finding a surrogate – someone to sleep in the bed for you, but convincing a person to take the bite for you may prove a daunting task. After all, who would volunteer for such a noble cause?

Bed Bug excrement on mattress

Bed bug infestations are not always easy to detect, and sometimes go unnoticed for a number of reasons. Victims of bed bug bites may not break out for sometime, if ever.  In addition, the little pests are nocturnal and only “come out of the woodwork” during the wee hours of the night, making discovery of an infestation that much more difficult.

There are a few tell-tale signs of a rooted bed bug infestation, which include finding small blood spots on bedding. The spots come from engorged bed bugs which are crushed when their hosts rolls over them while sleeping. Black spots along mattresses, backboards, pillows and sheets may also indicate the presence of bed bugs. The blackish material is excrement from the bugs, and may also be found along with eggs and bed bugs themselves.

There are no known practical enemies to combat bed bugs. The few insect species which do prey on the parasites are said to be more dangerous to humans than bed bugs.

The good news is that exterminators can eliminate the bugs through a comprehensive process which includes bagging up all household belongings, washing and double-drying laundry, and spraying insecticides. The bad news is that treatment options are often costly, sometimes running in the thousands of dollars. In some cases, specialists are required to encase entire homes in plastic and then heat the entire building to 113 degrees for an extended period of time. Such treatments displace families temporarily and can be very expensive.

Bed Bug sniffing dog

An unlikely soldier in the war against bed bugs exists in Man’s Best Friend. Dogs are said to be 98% accurate in detecting bed bugs when properly trained. A dog can sweep a room in a fraction of the time it would take a human, and are arguably much better at detecting the bugs which are masters of hiding.

A new start-up company in the local area is looking to address this issue. Buster, a Jack Russell Terrier adopted from Teacher’s Pet Rescue, is currently in training to become a bed bug sniffing dog. Once Buster’s training is complete, he and his handler expect to be accredited by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association, which specializes in certifying bed bug dogs.

In the meantime, residents should regularly check mattresses and other common areas for signs of bed bugs. Eradication of the pests is much easier when caught in early stages.

Now that you know the pests are here… sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

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One Comment

  1. Annoyed & Disappointed says:

    I do not agree with your headline! “Gas Drillers” are not to blame. Granted, there may not have been bed bugs found in Coudersport in the past, but you cannot say where the first ones came from. ANYONE who travels is a potential carrier. I work in a hotel in the area and received “bed bug training” from Erhlich. Yes, bed bugs are on the rise in the area, as they are in the rest of the world! The bugs reproduce quickly, are very resistant to most types of pestisides and there isn’t much in the way of prevention. The first few could have been brought in by anyone. And that is all it takes before you see an explosion in numbers. But it seems that, as of late, every problem in the area is blamed on the Oil and Gas Industry and its employees. Embrace the boost in our economy and the increase in job opportunities. Experience the different cultures these men and women are bringing to the area. All new things come with good and bad and it’s important we don’t focus solely on the bad.

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